5 tips for a smooth return to work after a vacation

Jan 5, 2022

Everyone looks forward to time off work: de-stressing, unwinding and paying attention to everything else in your life. But when going back to work feels like you need another vacation, like, right now, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

You’re not alone! So many people dread the return to work after a vacation. And now that work is home and home is work, it might be more challenging because there isn’t a physical change of space to flip the switch from “vacation” to “work” mode.

But what if we tell you there are some simple ways to ease your transition and keep that post-vacay glow going for longer?

Tips for employees returning to work after vacation

To reduce your chances of encountering post-holiday blues, the preparation begins even before you go on vacation.

Make a complete list of tasks before you leave

Past you can make Future you happier by creating a complete set of tasks that are currently on your plate. These could be divided by project, priority, intensity and status. Waiting for feedback from a client? Write that down. Need to onboard a new colleague as soon as you return? Put it on paper. We’d recommend making another, shorter list of high-priority tasks to be done immediately after you’re back. This will reduce the need for sifting through the long list and give you time and space to re-acclimatise yourself with work.

Pro tip: Use this list-making time to pare down your tasks and move the “one day I want to...” ideas into another archive. Priorities shift all the time at work, so this will help you prioritise the right tasks and reduce clutter.

Start slow on your first day

If you dive into emails at 9 AM on the dot, you’ll probably be overwhelmed in an hour. Instead, we recommend starting your first day back in a relaxed manner. Aim for giving 50%, not 100%.

Spend some time logging into software, going through the list of tasks you’ve made, and letting teammates know you’re back in action.

Collect all the paraphernalia you’ll need to get back to work: notepads, planners, coffee, et al. In the second half of the day (or even the next day), you’ll probably be ready to go over pending emails and meeting invitations.

Get caught up on larger progress

Before diving off the deep end into your emails and individual projects, consider catching up with your manager, teammates, and colleagues on larger goings-on.

You’ve probably been out of the loop for a while, so this gives you a chance to estimate overall progress and re-situate yourself in the organisation’s goals. It’ll also slowly shift your mindset from individual back to collective, so you’re ready to collaborate and brainstorm again.

Give yourself a day between vacation and return to work

We’d always recommend taking a buffer day between returning from vacation and returning to work. This is especially helpful if you’ve travelled elsewhere on vacation, because you’ll want to re-situate, stock up on groceries, unpack, and tackle that giant load of laundry.

Doing this will mean less stress and better focus when you go back to work the next day.

Tips for organisations to make return to work after vacation easier

Returning to work after vacation can be stressful, but there’s plenty that an organisation can do to make the transition easier.

Encourage the practice of auto-declining meetings

One person going on vacation means everyone else needs to know they’re not available. We’d recommend encouraging employees to set up an auto-decline meetings responder before going on vacation. This automatically declines meeting invites; the vacationing person isn’t disturbed by notifications or coming back to hordes of unopened invites. Plus, their teammates now know to expect their absence. This one step can prevent so much chaos and bad planning!

Psst: Pause can help your teams mark their time off on calendars and set up an auto-decline feature. Here’s how we do it!

Help employees delegate their work

It’s much easier to go on vacation knowing someone’s well equipped to handle any crises. Managers and team leads can help their teammates delegate tasks before they go on vacation, perhaps based on skill or availability. Doing this exercise together also gives the organisation an insight into what everyone’s up to, which is always helpful!

Let’s get back to work — together!

Vacations are great for your mental health and productivity, so you’ll definitely keep those good vibes going with these tips. And if you’d like the pre-vacation period to be stress-free (don’t we all?), Pause can help.

You can book time off in three steps, automatically update your Slack status to “away”, and auto-decline meetings with nary a notification. Pause will also inform your teams for you, so you can skip that dreaded process. It’s the best way to make sure your transition into—and out of—vacation mode is seamless!

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